There is little worse for our planet than constantly producing new stuff and throwing it away again and again. Fortunately, the second-hand market offers a solution. Before I show you what second-hand stuff I have in my house (in my following post), I explain why it is so important to (learn to) appreciate second-hand and how to do it!
Why re-use gives environmental benefits
Second-hand items can bring considerable environmental gains. Reuse extends the lifespan of the equipment. If you buy something second hand, nothing new needs to be made. This way you save raw materials, energy, and waste needed to make new stuff. Are you going to use something for a short period of time, like baby clothes? Or is it indestructible, like a batch of garden tiles? Then it certainly pays to buy it second hand and resell it after use.
Buying second hand is necessarily more economical. The gain can be more or less important. But if you take the time to search, the finds can be really amazing: reusable egg boxes to go to the market at 50 cents, wicker baskets at 3€, toys at -70%…
For very specific products, it is important to do some scouting, a “market study” to buy at the right price. Indeed, the occasion is fashionable, so some people see it as an opportunity to make money. Below are some tips on how to find your way around.
Typical second-hand must-knows
It’s dirty & it smells bad
When you buy second-hand, you have to deal with the “old life” of the objects. Nevertheless, there is no risk of catching diseases with second-hand purchases. Our advice :
- Clothes: whether it is a different laundry smell or that of clothes left in boxes for a long time, after being washed a few times and worn, the clothes will quickly take on your usual smell.
- Objects or toys: as soon as I buy an object or toy, I clean it before use. For example, in the case of a puzzle, I assemble it to check that nothing is missing and then I clean it with a dry cloth and the vinegar multi-purpose cleaning spray. Same for books.
- For baskets and wicker objects: clean with black soap.
Buying and giving second-hand gifts does not mean giving gifts of lesser value.
In the face of these criticisms, one of the counter-arguments is that you can find completely new second-hand things! Double gifted gifts and non-exchangeable ones, purchased errors, unworn clothes with labels: it is very common to find things still in their original packaging…
Of course, second-hand purchases are sometimes favored by the least wealthy households, but not necessarily. Today, buying vintage/retro is in fashion. There are more and more of us out there, who buy second-hand by choice: to avoid over-consumption, to save money compared to a new purchase…
My tips and tricks for second-hand purchases
Make it habitual
In recent years, I have adopted an “opportunity reflex”. As soon as I (our we as a family) have a need: I systematically look to see if this product exists on the second-hand market. And in 90% of the cases, this search is successful and avoids a new *new* purchase.
Locate and study prices
Before buying second-hand, it is always good to do a little “market research”. You can find out the new sale price of the product you want by estimating the price you want to put on it.
In fact, second-hand purchases are on the rise, and some people see this as an opportunity to make money. Fortunately, it is often possible to make good deals, so don’t hesitate to negotiate if you think it is necessary.
Take guarantees when necessary
Buying legos or pants, does not require the same level of attention as buying a household appliance for example. For the former, do not hesitate to ask for photos if those in the ad are not enough. For household appliances, it is possible to find second-hand, in very good condition or even almost new. Do not hesitate to ask for the purchase or maintenance invoice! Many second-hand shops give a warranty with bigger electrical appliances.
Give preference to local purchases
One of the first reflexes quickly adopted is to always check that the product is available near us before buying it on the Internet. In the case of second-hand items, I do a first local search before expanding to the region and then to the whole of Belgium if I really can’t find it. This allows me to save both shipping costs and pollution-related to transport.
Where to buy second hand?
In a specialized store
In second-hand stores you can often buy furniture, clothes, toys and household goods. You can also put your old stuff there. Some second-hand stores sell stuff in your place, so you can make some money from it. You can also sell furniture or works of art at an auction.
Chain of second-hand stores all over the country. The income from sales is mainly used to maintain and create jobs for people who have few opportunities in the labor market.
Think Twice is a branch that offers a wide range of vintage clothes at affordable prices. T2 gives its customers the opportunity to freely create their own individual styles, thereby spreading the love for second-hand fashion
The Think Twice Facebook Page
Used stores run by Oxfam Solidariteit. The proceeds will go to development projects in North and South. There are 42 stores in Belgium, some specializing in books and others in vintage clothing.
All second-hand outlets
This website gives an overview of used stores in Flanders, from clothes to cars and computers.
Don’t hesitate to use Google to translate!
There are also stores that do not specialize in second-hand but offer second-hand products alongside the new. I’m thinking of Bol.com and I just read in the newspaper today that Ikea plans on doing the same.
Garage sales and flea markets
Garage sales have been very fashionable for a few years now, unfortunately not so much now during Covid times, but hopefully, things will get back to “normal” at one stage or another.
People have a stand there to empty their houses and for passersby to find the right opportunity. I advise you not to go there with an idea in mind because by experience you rarely find what you came looking for. In spite of the diversity of the offer, if you look hard enough you will often find what you are looking for. Go as early as possible is my main tip!
As for flea markets, or *Rommelmarkten* as they say here in Flanders, they have long been known to be the place to go for antiques and other rarities found in attics by antique dealers. Sometimes the prices are quite expensive compared to the garage sales, but go and do not hesitate to negotiate!
- Online classifieds: You can buy as well as sell. Are you looking for something very concrete? Then you can set up a search function, which notifies you by email when someone has placed such an ad. There are many other sites where you can buy, auction, or sell second-hand items.
- Vinted: Personally my very favorite for clothing and toys. Very quickly Vinted has established itself as the new reference in the sale and purchase of second-hand clothing in particular. Its advantage? It allows you to make advanced selections by size, brand, condition, location. We can easily find the desired clothes according to our requirements! But also toys or other items such as Christmas toys. I have just recently been able to buy a brand new school bag for my son made out of reusable plastic. So, double win on sustainability!
- Instagram: this social network has a lot of accounts that do online second-hand sells and it is the opportunity to discover real pearls. I have a few that I particularly like: like
- Facebook Marketplace: it is an online marketplace very similar to the online classifieds. You can find anything from toys to a used car.
To conclude on the second- hand buying lifestyle
While for some people it is instinctive, for others, buying second hand is a mental step that can be difficult to take. Nevertheless, the advantages can be countless!
And as for the rest, I advise you to go “step by step”. One can start perhaps with a book or a game if the idea of wearing an already used garment is an “uncomfortable idea”. Then, once you have become familiar with the idea, you can take it one step further!
For example, this year is a new milestone for me: I’m looking for my first (used) car! Pray that I find the right one. 😀
Just go for it!
Before you go, here is a Belgian list for online buying and selling
The best-known auction site. You can sell stuff through an online auction or an ad.
Viewfinder site. You can buy as well as sell.
Offers of second-hand eco-products on the website of Velt, the Association for Ecological Life, and Gardening. You can offer your stuff for sale or for free, place an ad for what you need, or offer something to trade.
The Flemish colleges and universities, in collaboration with KBC and Tapptic, are launching the website Stukot.be. Students can buy and sell their room stuff and their expensive (well-maintained) manuals) directly to other room students. Thanks to the expertise of Tapptic, responsible for the design and development of the website, the website has been optimized to be visited via the web as well as on a smartphone or tablet computer. Later, the website will be launched in Wallonia.
Auction website of De Kringwinkel, one of my favorite thrift stores! Not only do they help the environment, but they also create social employment spots!
Did this article make you want to try second-hand shopping? Any tips for me to discover?